Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency sues space-tech company for $2.7M

Daniel MacEachern
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Jacques Guigne

It was a company that could be found on the ocean floor and aimed to find evidence of life on Mars.

But recent court filings suggest Guigne International has been brought back to Earth.

The federal Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) filed three statements of claim with the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador earlier this month, suing Guigne for a total of nearly $2.7 million to recover federal loans.

Guigne International began life in Paradise in 1989, founded by Jacques Guigne, named Entrepreneur of the Year by the P.J. Gardiner Institute for Small Business at Memorial University’s business faculty in 2000.

That was the same year it opened (as Guigne Technologies) a facility in St. John’s to continue its work, which included the design and development of technology for land, water and space applications.

At the time, the company had more than 60 employees, including scientists and engineers. The

St. John’s shop was going to be used to commercialize Guigne’s DRUMS (Dynamically Responding Ultrasonic Matrix Sonar) and Smart Acoustics trademarks.

The company also had offices in Huntsville, Ala., and Marseilles and Nice in France. In 2004, Guigne International was involved with a company proposing a Canadian mission to Mars, potentially to develop a tiny drill to be used for sampling and seismic information.

The Space-DRUMS technology — being used on the International Space Station as recently as three years ago — uses sound waves to levitate materials for processing, allowing them to be processed or grown without contamination by the sides of a container.

“The beams of sound energy work like invisible fingers that gently push the floating sample into the centre of the container so that it doesn’t touch the walls,” Guigne told a writer for Discovery News in September 2009, as the technology was beginning to be used aboard the station.

“With no gravity and nothing touching the walls you can have a very pure structure. Hence, it’s of great value.”

Development and expansion was aided by provincial and federal financing over the past two decades. The agency’s statements of claim seek repayment of outstanding portions of loans made to help in the development of DRUMS technologies for the ocean and ocean floor and for space, dating from January 1998, May 1998, August 2000, March 2001 and May 2002.

All statements of claim say Guigne (including Guigne Inc., Guigne International and Guigne SpaceDrums) and the agency agreed to several amendments to the loan repayment schedule, the last one dated Dec. 22, 2010.

Since the last amendment, however, Guigne has not met the agency’s reporting requirements and defaulted on its repayments, and has “ceased to carry on business,” transferring intellectual property and assets to another entity.

According to NASA fact sheets about the SpaceDRUMS project on the International Space Station, Jacques Guigne represents “Guigne Space Systems, Inc.,” which is not an entity listed among ACOA’s statements of claim.

Guigne’s former location on Kenmount Road in St. John’s is now a Long and McQuade musical instruments shop. The phone number for its Paradise location has been disconnected.

Jacques Guigne could not be reached for comment.

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Guigne International, Supreme Court International Space Station P.J. Gardiner Institute for Small Business Discovery News NASA Guigne Space Systems

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Huntsville, Ala., France Mars Kenmount Road

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Recent comments

  • Ranter
    August 29, 2012 - 18:27

    I bet if this was a Halifax company - the funding would be there. Kill NFLD one step at a time...that's the Canadian Moto!

  • Sam
    August 29, 2012 - 09:59

    Look, the reality is that ACOA plays a crucially important role in funding innovation and business development in the Atlantic regions. The very purpose of ACOA is to help foster business and technology development that is inherently high risk. The thing is, when you provide fundamentally important support to a high risk area, probability dictates that some things don't work out. If someone didn't step up to the plate to support innovation in this high-risk area, in many cases it just wouldn't happen at all. It's easy to jump on ACOA when something like this hits the press, but the reality is that the countless positive effects of a ACOA never make it to press, as the social improvement it brings about every day, year after year, does not come in the form of a news-worthy event. All we have here is sample bias. The detractors may have some valid points, but nothing that could support calling for the end of the ACOA program.

  • taxpayertoo
    August 28, 2012 - 09:54

    Guigne International went under ages ago, they could not get continued funding...too bad maybe we'd be on Mars with Curiosity. I have no idea what the terms of funding were but I do know that Jacques is not rich as implied...he is a scientist and researcher, used to be known as the golden boy...he probably could have taken us to Mars if the funding continued now we can only watch the Americans beat us to it.

  • Trish
    August 27, 2012 - 07:05

    I wonder how much ACOA has paid out and lost. How many millions have been lost to companies failing to repay their loans? Mr. Harper we just found out how you can save millions cut all the HIGHEST paid managers at ACOA. They have shown that they can't manage the money. Plus we all know the highest paid employees never do the actual work.

  • Duffy
    August 26, 2012 - 13:17

    What a Agency. Loans for Russian Berry Plants and no market, call centers, beet growers in NL winter and Mushrooms. The NL Government has loss touch with reality. The latest is rebuiding a paper plant in Coner Brook for a private firm/individual who probably has bluffed them into doing it. He will surely appreciate it and will laugh all the way to the bank. But I wonder if it is favours, "good ole boy network" and politics that make the decisions. Want to save money then do away with this agency and others that give away hard payed taxes to private individuals for a few jobs - asap!

    • Juwal
      August 27, 2012 - 06:50

      Duffy....don't know what the NL government has to do with this story..Acoa is a fereral agency.

  • PR
    August 26, 2012 - 09:56

    Another write off .... after "transferring intellectual property and assets to another entity."

  • Choir-Boy
    August 25, 2012 - 20:52

    I'm not surprised. Most of what works at ACOA are lazy, dummies and only their to help out their croonies and watch their bank accounts grow because of over-inflated salaries. Shut it down. Most of what they loan out never gets repaid anyway.

  • carogers
    August 25, 2012 - 09:31

    They can get millions and never pay a cent for years and years but others are turned down every day by ACOA. Seems someone is helping out his already rich buddies and not the ordinary person trying to get ahead.